ACLU and Georgia Health Clinics Urge Court To Require Medicaid to Cover Abortions Poor Women Need to Protect Their Health

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
December 16, 2003 12:00 am

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ATLANTA — Moving to protect the health of low-income women across Georgia, the American Civil Liberties Union argued in state court today on behalf of several clinics that denying Medicaid coverage for medically necessary abortions threatens women’s health and violates their rights.

“”We are hopeful that the court will recognize that Georgia Medicaid endangers poor women’s health by denying coverage for abortions that a doctor determines are medically necessary,”” said Nancy Boothe, Executive Director of Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta. “”If a Medicaid-eligible woman finds out she has cancer and needs an abortion, the state should not put up roadblocks that make it difficult, if not impossible, for her to obtain the care she needs.””

The ACLU appeared in court on behalf of health clinics throughout the state that care for women every day and have seen firsthand how denying coverage for medically necessary abortions threatens the health of their low-income patients, the ACLU said.

“”If a poor woman learns that she is carrying a fetus that suffers from a condition that is incompatible with life, Medicaid will only cover her medical care if she continues the pregnancy,”” said Kay Scott, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood of Georgia. “”Where is the compassion in forcing a woman to give birth to a stillborn?””

Close to 70 percent of registered voters in Georgia agree that Medicaid “”should cover abortions that a doctor determines are necessary to protect a woman’s health,”” the Georgia Legislative Poll found earlier this year.

Medicaid provides assistance for a broad range of medical services necessary to protect the health of low-income Georgians, including pregnancy related care, except abortion. Medicaid covers abortions only when the woman’s life is endangered or her pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The ACLU asked the court today to require Medicaid to cover abortion to the same extent as other medically necessary services.

“”We are not asking for special treatment for abortion,”” said Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “”We’re only asking that poor women not be denied the care their doctors say they need just because that care happens to be an abortion.””

Sixteen states cover medically necessary abortions in their Medicaid programs on the same or similar terms as other pregnancy-related care. Three of these provide coverage voluntarily; in the remaining 13, courts have ordered coverage.

The case is Feminist Women’s Health Center, et al. v. Burgess, et al. (No. 2003 CV 78487). Attorneys in the case include Louise Melling, Director, Jennifer Dalven, Deputy Director, and Jaya Ramji, Staff Attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Maggie Garrett of the ACLU of Georgia; and Marcia Borowski of Thompson, Rollins, Schwartz and Borowski, LLC of Decatur.

Plaintiffs include Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood of Georgia, Inc., Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services, Inc., Atlanta Surgi-Center, Inc., Columbus Women’s Health Organization, Inc., Summit Medical Associates, P.C., and Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, Inc.

The ACLU brief filed in the case can be viewed online at: /node/35393

The Georgia Legislative Poll is available online at: /node/22588

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